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realclearworld

On the Taliban Exchange (and Alan Gross)

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

On the Taliban Exchange (and Alan Gross)

Predictably, some are using President Obama's decision to exchange Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, to push for a similar exchange of Castro's American hostage Alan Gross for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.

President Obama's decision has raised serious concerns that the Taliban exchange will further endanger U.S. troops in the future. Obama has responded to such criticism by underscoring that this was not a "concession," but part of his specific commitment to bring home all of the troops from Afghanistan and to close Guantanamo Bay. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also argued today that Sgt. Bergdahl was not a hostage, but a "prisoner of war."

First and foremost, President Obama should do everything within his power to pressure the Castro regime to unconditionally release Alan Gross. We have yet to see any tangible pressure applied. To the contrary, since Alan Gross' taking, Obama has continued easing sanctions and engaging in unconditional bilateral talks.

However, a similar exchange with Alan Gross would make this a dangerous trend, not part of a specific, strategic goal, which would rightfully expose President Obama to further criticism of encouraging hostage-takings by rogue nations and terrorist groups.

The following important differences apply to the Alan Gross case:

1. Alan Gross was not a spy. He was an innocent civilian contractor, whose activities in Cuba were consistent with international law, while the three imprisoned Cubans were spies. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (and Hillary Clinton before) has said on the record multiple times, there's no equivalence between Gross and the Cuban spies. Any exchange would imply Gross was a spy and give credence to the Castro regime's false accusations against him. Moreover, it would open the door to future attacks against any American traveler who supports Cuban civil society, which has been explicitly stated by Obama as the premise of his travel policy.

2. The Cuban spies were convicted in U.S. federal court. Unlike the Taliban prisoners, the Cuban spies were openly tried, convicted and sentenced in U.S. federal court. Moreover, they enjoyed all due process and appellate rights. A release of the Cuban spies would require a pardon for their crimes or a commutation of their sentence by President Obama, including of Gerardo Hernandez, who is serving a life-sentence for conspiracy to murder three American citizens and a permanent resident. The families of those murdered have strongly objected to such an exchange.

3. Alan Gross was explicitly imprisoned as a hostage. As Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote recently, the Cuban regime imprisoned Alan Gross to secure the release of the Cuban spies. Moreover, the regime was convinced that his value as a hostage went up because he was Jewish. “Everyone knows that the Jews have a lot of clout in Washington,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper was told while visiting Gross in Cuba.

3 comments to On the Taliban Exchange (and Alan Gross)

  • Why does the article state Gross was not a spy? The CIA's fingerprints were all over USAID and it's Cuba internet programs Gross was involved with:
    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/us-secretly-created-cuban-twitter-stir-unrest

    If he was serving US interests, Gross is more deserving of a swap than the (alleged) deserter.

    • The article does not state Alan Gross was a spy because of the simple fact that he is not a spy. Furthermore, the Cuban Twitter story you mention has absolutely nothing to do with the project Gross was involved in. And lastly, whether Gross is more or less deserving of a prisoner swap is irrelevant due to the fact that Cuba's Castro dictatorship is a State Sponsor of Terror and has and continues to support and provide aid to several international terrorists organizations. Negotiating with the Castro dictatorship is not much different from negotiating with the Taliban; you are still negotiating with terrorists.

  • Honey

    Obama probably had in mind early on the release of those men from Guantanamo so he could eventually close Guantanamo. But he knew that the Americans would not stand for it.
    Now that he sees that no matter what he does he gets away with it, breaking laws or destroying our health care system or destroying liberty all over the world or....he figured he might as well do this swap of getting an American deserter released in exchange for dangerous terrorists leaving Guantanamo.
    The reason this was so important to do right away is because now Obama sees his power and polls slipping. He had to do this now before he lost all of his power.
    He thought he would get away with it and be praised for it like the rest he has gotten away with.
    It is inevitable that he will soon release those Cuban spies for Gross. He will try once again to call it a humanitarian gesture. But he has to do it soon. He will do it this Friday evening I expect after the news cycle. He will again bypass congress.